SisterB and family came to visit over Christmas, and top of their list of things to do was "go for dimsum and have some of those meat buns". If you are visiting Hong Kong, you should follow their lead and make sure to keep at least one lunchtime free to go and eat dimsum.

What is dimsum ? I first asked that question in London's Chinatown, as many of the restaurants there advertise that they serve dimsum. The Chinese man I spoke to said "dumplings", which meant I didn't try them until several years later when I came out to Hong Kong (if you know what an English dumpling is like, and then imagine trying to eat a whole lunch of them, you'll know why!).

If you make a direct translation of the two Chinese characters, you get Dim=Touch, Sum=Heart -- you'll see tourist guides telling flowery tales of how "the food is so delicious it touches your heart". I'm not sure if anyone knows why that combination of words really got chosen , people just know that dimsum means the type of meal where they serve, umm, dimsum !

Here's a bunch of pictures that should give you an idea of what you are in for. Each plate or basket only has two or three small helpings so can try a whole bunch of different stuff. The idea is similar to Spanish tapas, though the food obviously isn't ! I'd recommend you start with the "Steamed BBQ Pork Buns" ("Cha Siu Baau" in Cantonese) that SisterB was looking for, as these always seem to be a favourite. Otherwise anything on that list should go down well. Even the chickens' feet taste good if you can ignore what it is that you're eating.

Your hotel should be able to recommend you some local places to try dimsum, and your hotel restaurant probably serves them too. There are some local recommendations provided below.

Some restaurants have little carts that the servers push around, each one stacked up with a selection of different dimsum. These are the easiest on new visitors, as you can just lift up the lids and point at what you fancy (each stack of baskets is all the same food, so there's no need to look beyond the top layer). Other restaurants will have a printed slip listing all the different types of dimsum on offer. Usually these are written in Chinese, so you might want to print out the page of pictures shown above, and take that with you to point at. Worst case, just ask for their recommendation and you probably won't go wrong.

If you are staying here longer-term, trips to eat dimsum will be fairly common. You'll most likely be asked if you want to go to "Yum Cha", which literally means "Drink Tea", but expect to eat dimsum as well. Expect to see a different crowd of fellow diners, depending on the time of day and day of the week that you go. If you end up having pre-dawn dimsum after a night on the town, you'll be sharing it with other early birds who are getting ready to start an early shift, or grandads taking their songbirds out for an early morning walk. Later in the morning it moves to people meeting for breakfast after morning-exercise, or just meeting up with their friends as part of their daily ritual. Mayhem breaks out around 12:30 on weekdays, when the lunchtime rush starts -- the volume in the restaurant at this time is similar to playtime in a school playground.

Weekends are different again, as many families make it a habit to meet for dimsum on a Saturday or Sunday. Some restaurants deal with the crowds by making you collect a ticket at the door, and wait until your number is called. Other places take a survival-of-the-fittest approach and let you find your own table. This means you have to decide which table is closest to asking for their bill, then go and hover over them until they go. The standard way around this is to nominate someone to get to the table early and grab the table -- this explains the tables you see that are set for eight but just have dad sitting alone with a pot of tea and the racing section of the newspaper.

Enjoy yourselves, and if you find a good restaurant please write in and let us know.



Dimsum recommendations:

From Mr B:

My first suggestion is to eat at the City Hall Maxim's Palace -- it's convenient for visitors, and although there is usually a queue to get in (make sure you get your numbered ticket when you first arrive), the food is always good. More details can be found here.

My favourite place for Dim Sum is the Ho Choi restaurant in Sheung Wan -- but I always have to wander around a couple of blocks before I find it, so that'll have to wait until I've got the address clear.

Suggestions from readers:

  • There's a great one on Jubilee Street Central (between the Market and The Centre), which is really cheap after 2pm on the weekends. Not sure how gweilo-friendly it is, though -- the missus does the ordering when we go there. We fed a party of four (and some kids) there the other week for under $200. It's called Treasure Lake Seafood Restaurant, and the Dim Sum menu isn't in English, although they have another menu which is (and comes with pictures, too.)');
  • Luk Yu on Stanley Street is my favourite. Slightly bossy waiters, a great environment and a gweilo limited english menu.
  • Lu Yu is definitely recommended. Very traditional and excellent dimsum, but the staff (all elderly men) are a law unto themselves.
  • Zen in Pacific Place and Festival Walk is good (but not very traditional), with some interesting and different dim sum. [Another reader adds]: Zen in Pacific Place is good and noisy (and slow service) but the glutinous rice stuffed into chicken wings is really interesting. Other food also decent quality.
  • For 'upscale' dimsum, Mrs Tall suggests 'The Square' (I know, very unlikely name for a dim sum place, but would Mrs Tall lie?) in Exchange Square 2, on the 4th floor. She said each dim sum entry is 'gei sup man' (i.e. several tens of dollars) which indeed adds up, but that the food is very good. [ Another reader adds]: The Square (in Exchange Square) is very good at weekends (and cheaper), not so good on weekdays. Good location before a flight (stroll down to Airport Express after meal).
  • I think Victoria Seafood serves some of the best dim sum in town. [Another reader adds]: Victoria Seafood (Citic tower, Central and Sung Hung Kai Bldg, Wanchai) is good but I find it overpriced.
  • If you have a member with you, try the Oi Suen at Shatin Jockeyclub Clubhouse. I assure you it's the best in Hong Kong.
  • In terms of alternate venues, the Conrad hotel is reputed to serve up quite a decent array. Their Har Kau comes highly recommended.
  • 'Dim Sum' in Happy Valley is excellent (except for the long wait). It's on Sing Kwong Road (opposite Brown's). Consistently good food, very good service. Tables squeezed close together though. Arrive at 11.45 to ensure a table on Sundays.

If you have any recommendations of visitor-friendly restaurants or dim sum-related stories, all contributions are gratefully received !


Dim Sum Recommendation

Metropole in United Centre, Admiralty is excellent, still have trolleys, fantastic service and really good food. We usually arrive around 1330 and don't have to queue at all. But don't arrive too late as they do limit their food supply (I've asked, it's for upkeeping the quality) and you will face with a limited selection after 1430. We have even got dim sum take away and steamed them back up later on in the evening as our Christmas party snacks!

Dim sum

Sounds good as its very close to my office in admiralty centre just next door. But whats the price like? shouldn;t be too expensive right?

Metropole Restaurant

Metropole is not an expensive restaurant.

Lin Heung Tea House

Lin Heung Tea House[蓮香樓]is one of the few remaining old-time tea houses in Hong Kong.It is noisy and crowded,but its dim sum is traditional style and delicious.

Lin Heung Tea House
Wellington Street,
Central,Hong Kong

More dim sum

I had dim sum three times in the past week, which is very unusual for me -- I like dim sum, but somehow more in contemplation than in the actual eating.

Anyway, a visit to Maxim's in City Hall, which MrB mentions in the main article, was sandwiched between two lunches at the House of Tang in the Metropark Hotel on Waterloo Road in Yaumatei (yes, that's the Hotel Formerly Known As The Metropole, aka the epicenter of the SARS epidemic in Hong Kong).

And I have to say that the Maxim's dim sum was not remotely in the same league as the Metropark's. It wasn't even close. It's not that Maxim's was bad, but House of Tang's is just excellent.

As for atmosphere: if you're a tourist, or feeling nostalgic, definitely go to Maxim's if you don't have to stand in line too long. We were there at the peak of lunchtime on Sunday, and it was chaos. But we were lunching with one of Mrs Tall's collegues, who has big guanxi there, and we got a table right away! (It wasn't gwai privilege, BTW -- this colleague is 100% HK Chinese). Anyway, the view is still good, and the setting and cart-pushing entertaining, but the food was average for the price.

House of Tang, like quite a few restaurants in HK, has been redone in a more contemporary/fashionable style (the photos at the link above are out of date), with sleek, muted decoration, and discreet little menu cards on which you mark your dim sum choices. Not romantic at all, but similar in price to Maxim's, and the food was a knockout!

Ane yet more Dim Out. This time it is out door.

Hi there, I snipped this from http://www.afcd.gov.hk/english/country/cou_vis/cou_vis_cou/cou_vis_cou_t... There is a Tuen Kee Restaurant (端記茶樓)near the Chuen Lung Family Walk. Dim Sum is basically self serviced. You go and pick your own dishes. Chuen Lung Family Walk This walk starts and ends in the Chuen Lung Barbecue Area 1. Take green minibus no. 80 to Chuen Lung Village, or take bus no. 51 to the bus stop in front of the village. Starting point of the walk is about 20 minutes away. Map of approximate location is here.

Best Regards, T

Beg to disagree

Dimsum on Sing Wo, good service!!??? Chi sin. I'd say merely acceptable and occasionally rude. Once my friend asked for a table transfer as the couple sharing her table were virtually necking in public. She got the transfer - grudgingly, WITH a loud chastisement from the waitress to "not do it again". This despite that the nearby tables were nearly empty. Also the food has been really lacklustre the last 2 or 3 times I've been - I've had better in cheaper places. I hate to say this as a former fan of the place, but I'm sticking with Victoria and City Hall from now on.